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Five Things You Need to Know About: Chronic Homelessness

March 6, 2012

The Washington Post published a story this weekend about the increase in chronic homelessness that nearby Montgomery County has seen recently. At Calvary Comments, we’d like to take a moment to talk about chronic homelessness and answer some questions you may have:

1.       What is chronic homelessness?

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a chronically homeless person is unaccompanied disabled individual who has been continuously homeless for over one year, or has had four episodes of homelessness in the last three years.

2.       What are the reasons someone might experience chronic homelessness?

People who have been chronically homeless may be struggling with a serious mental illness, an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or both. They may lack higher education or have minimal or no history of employment. Some also suffer from serious medical conditions in addition to their other challenges. Many women who are chronically homeless have experienced trauma in the form of physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.

3.       How many people are chronically homeless?

According to a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, chronic homelessness decreased by 3 percent since 2009 to a total of 107,148 people in 2011. According to the same report, “the decrease is associated with an increase in the number of permanent supportive housing beds from 188,636 in 2007 to 266,968 in 2011. Permanent supportive housing ends chronic homelessness.”

During this same time period, overall homelessness in American decreased by 1 percent.

4.       How about in DC?

DC is a different story. Over the past year, overall homelessness in DC has increased to include 6,546 people. According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, between 2009 and 2011 chronic homelessness in the District has increased 8.84%– up to 2,093 people. That means nearly 1 out of every 3 people who are homeless in DC is chronically homeless.

5.       What can we do about homelessness?

Many of the women who come to Calvary are chronically homeless. Our approach is to welcome all women into our programs – no matter what challenges they face – and provide each one with services and programs to address the root causes of her homelessness so she can make positive steps to independence. With our support, every five days a woman moves from Calvary to her own home.

As one woman who recently moved from Calvary to her own apartment told us, “Calvary supports you in making the right choices… they open up the door, but it’s up to you to walk through it. They gave me a lot of opportunities.”

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